With temperatures soaring above 30 degrees (plus the influence of humidity), summer on the south coast of KZN can be uncomfortably hot. While you’re fantasising about hiding away in shopping malls or anywhere else with air conditioning, consider that your pets need cooling down, too. Heatstroke is a real danger to pets in summer, so here are our four top tips to keep them cool.
1) Chill their water
Just as humans love iced drinks, pets will enjoy having a few ice cubes added to their water. They can’t ask for a drink or tell you that they are too hot, so ensure water is always available. Water can also be chilled in the fridge and used to top up the water bowl.
2) Give them a cool spot
Both dogs and cats enjoy being outdoors on a sunny day, but they need to have somewhere to retreat when the heat becomes too much. If there are no trees to shade your garden, consider adding a kennel or similar shelter to the yard so that your pets are not in direct sunlight.
Avoid putting your pets under anything with a tin roof, however, as they will become unbearably hot. Dogs will love a paddling pool (the shell-shaped plastic kids’ pools or sandpits work well for this). Cooling mats for pets are also useful – see this one at takealot.com – or you can improvise with a cold, wet towel.
3) Visit the parlour
Long-haired dog breeds will benefit from a shave. Ensure that a 3cm layer of fur is left to protect them from sunburn, though. Dogs with shorter coats can be brushed to remove excess fur.
4) Exercise them in the early morning or evening
Dogs who love going for walks won’t object to leaving the house in the heat of the day, so it’s up to their owners to plan exercise at cooler times to avoid their pets overheating. It’s also a good idea to walk dogs on grass instead of paved surfaces or tar, because these surfaces reach high temperatures and can burn the pooch’s paws.
How to spot heatstroke
Look out for these symptoms:
- Heavy or loud panting
- A bright red tongue and pale gums
- Collapsing or stumbling
- Lying flat on cool surfaces
What to do when your pet has heatstroke
1) Carry your pet away from the heat and give him water to drink.
2) To prevent his temperature from rising further, wet your pet with a low-pressured stream of cold water. Prioritise the paws, head and tail. If possible, put towels saturated in cool water between his back legs and under his front legs. Do not submerge him in water or use ice packs.
3) Immediate medical attention is needed – contact your family veterinarian and get ready to depart with your pet. Severe heatstroke can be fatal.
4) While in the car, keep the windows open or the air conditioning on.
The vet will likely have to hospitalise your pet for a few days, depending on the severity of the case. Therefore, it’s best to take all steps possible to keep your pet from overheating.